03.31.15

SCHUMER: NEW I-95 TOLLS PLACED BY CONNECTICUT ON NY BORDER COULD BACK UP 14,000 TRUCKS AND CARS & DIVERT TRAFFIC INTO RYE & PORT CHESTER, OVERWHELMING LOCAL STREETS AS DRIVERS AVOID TOLL; PLAN SHOULD NOT PROGRESS WITHOUT ADEQUATE COMMUNITY INPUT – SCHUMER CALLS ON CT OFFICIALS TO LISTEN TO AND INCORPORATE NY CONCERNS BEFORE MOVING FORWARD

Local Communities Fear New Toll on I-95 Might Divert Traffic Into Rye & Port Chester That Towns Cannot Handle – 140,000 Cars & Trucks Per Day Travel Along Corridor; If Even A Handful Choose To Use Local Roads, Could Hurt Emergency Response Times & Local Business Activity, Pollute Neighborhoods & Create Traffic Headaches 

Schumer Says NY Concerns Should Be Taken Into Consideration & Necessary Fed Approval Should Not Be Granted if Rye & Port Chester Are Ignored – Tolls Could Be Moved Further North Away From Border 

Schumer to CT: Be A Good Neighbor & Consider NY Towns’ Concerns

Today, at Port Chester Village Hall, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on Connecticut officials who are considering placing a new toll on I-95 at the New York border to listen to and incorporate concerns from local New York communities, including Rye and Port Chester, before moving forward. Schumer explained that, according to a study conducted on behalf of the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board, as many as 14,000 of the 140,000 cars and trucks per day that traverse the route could decide to get off of the highway and use local streets in order to avoid paying the toll.

That has local communities concerned that the toll could clog up streets in Rye and Port Chester, affect emergency response times, harm local air quality, and hinder local business activity. Connecticut is currently studying where to place the toll – and it is expected they will release a study next month – but Schumer said this planning should not move forward without sufficient input from impacted New York communities. Schumer noted that the proposed toll cannot move forward without federal approval, and Schumer said that the Federal Highway Administration should not approve any plan for a toll unless local concerns are adequately addressed.

“Connecticut’s potential plan to place tolls right on the New York-Westchester border could to do serious harm to local communities like Port Chester and Rye, and it should not move forward without community input. This toll has the potential to clog local roads, increase air pollution, hinder business activity and impede emergency response efforts. That is why New York State communities, particularly Rye and Port Chester, should be consulted on the proposal before it moves further,” said Schumer. “That is why I am calling on the Connecticut Department of Transportation to be a good neighbor and consider New York communities’ concerns. I am also putting the feds on notice that any proposal that fails to incorporate New York communities’ concerns should be rejected. The people of Rye and Port Chester have real concerns about the proposed I-95 toll – and those concerns deserve to be heard and responded to.”

In March, the Connecticut General Assembly voted in favor of legislation to authorize the Connecticut Department of Transportation to move forward with toll booth planning throughout CT, including on the New York-Connecticut border. Last month, the CT legislature held public hearings on placing toll booths, but NY communities were not invited to testify at this public forum. As a result, the Westchester communities bordering the New York-Connecticut I-95 corridor, including the City of Rye and the Village of Port Chester, have expressed concern that this decision could be made with little-to-no input from New York communities that could be most affected by the toll. Specifically, Schumer said this proposed toll could clog up streets in Rye and Port Chester, affecting emergency response times, commercial activity, local air quality, and traveler convenience. Therefore, Schumer is calling on Connecticut officials to consider the concerns of Westchester communities before moving forward on toll placement proposals that could negatively impact neighborhoods like Rye and Port Chester.

  • First, Schumer said that locals are concerned the toll could create more traffic on the highway or create bumper-to-bumper traffic on area roads, as drivers seek to avoid the toll. This could clog up streets and cause massive traffic headaches for local residents and businesses, a major inconvenience for the residents in these small cities, towns and villages near the potential toll location, including Rye and Port Chester. According to a 2009 report prepared for the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board, a toll on I-95 at the New York border is expected to divert about 14,000 vehicles on a daily basis, including approximately 1,400 in the highest peak hour. This report concluded that putting 1,400 vehicles on Route 1, which is the most likely detour route through Port Chester, would have a significant impact on traffic patterns in the community and in surrounding towns and villages like Rye.
  • Second, Schumer said that local officials and residents in Westchester have expressed concerns that further congested roads could not only be inconvenient, they could be dangerous. Schumer said that with traffic already heavy on Route 1 during rush hour, this additional traffic could cause significant backups, particularly in downtown Port Chester, and impact an emergency crew’s ability to get to a resident in need or experiencing a medical emergency. In addition, the study found that the diversion of heavy trucks onto local roads – even if not in sufficient quantity – could measurably increase congestion, impede emergency response, and elevate the safety hazards that inherently come with large trucks carrying cargo and heavier loads being placed on local roadways in small communities.
  • Third, Schumer said the increase in traffic could harm local air quality if more motor vehicles are overwhelming the area. Schumer said that from a public health perspective, residents in the towns along the Connecticut border would incur most of the costs and impacts, but few of the benefits, as the fumes from idling cars and trucks stuck in traffic would diminish local air quality, particularly during rush hour.
  • Finally, any additional congestion in these communities could negatively impact local businesses. If streets begin to experience significant backups or become difficult to navigate due to excess congestion, residents and visitors could choose to shop and do business elsewhere. Schumer said that there are approximately 140,000 vehicles that travel the I-95 corridor between the New York state line and Stamford, Connecticut every day – if even a fraction of those drivers choose to skip the toll by getting off the highway and taking local roads, it could have a huge impact on those local businesses being blocked by heavy traffic and delays each day.

Schumer said these concerns from New York residents should be taken into consideration before a plan that could cause pollution in neighborhoods, diminish local commercial activity and impede emergency response times is submitted for federal approval. Schumer explained that Connecticut is currently studying where to place this toll, and the study’s results are expected to be released next month. As a result, Schumer is urging the State of Connecticut’s DOT take these economic, environmental, and safety concerns of Westchester residents seriously and to adapt it plans accordingly. Schumer said that one option could be to locate the new toll at least one mile past the border, potentially between Exits 2 and 3 in Connecticut, where they were located in the 1980s, instead of right along the border. Schumer referenced historical accidents at this particular site, including the tragic accident in 1983 which took the lives of seven people, which initially lead to the removal of the toll booths. Schumer urged that all traffic and safety concerns must be thoroughly analyzed.

Schumer highlighted that even Connecticut state legislators have voiced their concerns about placing tolls on I-95 at the New York-Connecticut border, with one Connecticut State Senator saying that there will be, “back-ups of drivers seeking to avoid a toll on the exit ramps on I-95 and absolute mayhem.” That is why Schumer says the FHWA should work with Connecticut to make sure the concerns of New York communities are addressed before moving forward. Schumer said if New York’s concerns are not taken into account, then he will urge FHWA not to green light this effort.

Schumer also noted that any proposed toll on the I-95 highway cannot move forward without federal approval. Congress, in creating the Interstate Highway System in 1956, prohibited states from tolling the interstates, but did allow certain roads, such as the Connecticut Turnpike – which incorporates most of I-95 – to retain tolls already in place. Although the federal government generally bans tolling of interstate highways, the FHWA’s Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) supports a variety of strategies to manage congestion on highways, including tolling highway facilities through congestion pricing, as well as other methods that do not involve tolls, such as mileage-based car insurance and parking pricing. Schumer explained that while Connecticut’s 2009 study looked at electronic tolling and congestion pricing possibilities, the concerns of New Yorkers were not taken into account then, and they have not yet been taken into account for the follow up report that is set to be released next month. For this reason, Schumer is urging the FHWA to work with Connecticut to make sure the concerns of New York communities are addressed before moving forward.

“Connecticut collecting tolls at the state border would hurt the quality of life for too many New Yorkers,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “Alternate routes used to avoid tolls could create congestion that crowds local communities and harms the environment, drivers would incur extra expense, and emergency personnel could face more difficulty responding to incidents. I will work with Senator Schumer to express our concerns to elected officials in Connecticut and the Federal Highway Administration. I hope that as our friends in Connecticut weigh their options, they consider the impact to their neighbors.”

Schumer was joined by Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Village of Port Chester Mayor Neil J. Pagano, Village of Port Chester Mayor-elect Dennis Pilla, and Village of Port Chester Attorney Tony Ceretto, and representatives from State Senator George Latimer’s office.

“I salute Senator Schumer's leadership on this issue; when the interests of two neighboring states collide, it is imperative the federal government step in to protect our New York neighbors,” said State Senator George Latimer.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Connecticut Department of Transportation appears below:

Dear Commissioner Redeker:

I write to urge you to consider the concerns of local New York communities, including Rye and Port Chester, when deciding whether to establish new tolls on I-95 at the New York border. These communities fear that a new toll at the border might divert traffic onto local roads from drivers avoiding the toll; since they will likely be affected by a new toll, the input of these communities should be part of Connecticut’s decision making process.

Approximately 140,000 vehicles travel the I-95 corridor in this area, between the New York state line and Stamford, every day. If even a fraction of those drivers choose to skip the toll by getting off the highway and taking local roads, it could have a huge impact on those local communities. Additional congestion in these communities could negatively affect local businesses, make roads impassable for emergency vehicles, affect air quality, and impact safety.

According to a 2009 report prepared for the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board, a toll on I-95 at the New York border would divert about 14,000 vehicles on a daily basis, including approximately 1,400 in the highest peak hour. The report concluded that putting 1,400 vehicles on Route 1, which is the most likely detour route through Port Chester, would have a significant impact on traffic in Port Chester and the surrounding communities. Traffic is already heavy on Route 1 during rush hour, and the additional traffic would cause significant backups, particularly in downtown Port Chester. The report also noted that the additional traffic, including higher numbers of trucks, could create important safety concerns for Port Chester and the surrounding communities.

I understand and appreciate Connecticut’s efforts to reduce traffic congestion on I-95 and address state budget needs. However, since certain New York communities on the Connecticut border would likely see significant impacts from the establishment of new tolls, I urge you to involve those communities in the decision making process.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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